The Oxford News and Times have been carrying stories and letters about the anti-social behaviour of language school students in Headington parks. I’ve certainly seen the litter – there was a collection of about 18 lager cans at the Pullens Lane end of Cuckoo Lane the other week. But my gripe has been about the buses.
About a week before the end of July I was on a bus going into the City which stopped at the top of Headington Hill for a crowd of young people sporting EF bags. There was a young man with them whose sweatshirt announced him as “Staff”, though he too was clearly not English. The bus driver had obviously had the experience before – he turned off his engine. He then very patiently spent ten minutes explaining how and where they could buy bus passes, then issuing individual tickets to more than a dozen students in turn. Finally the bus set off. And then they all got off at St Clements!
I wasn’t looking forward to having the same experiences over the rest of the summer so I phoned EF Language School to ask if they could do anything about it. Why, for instance, couldn’t the “Staff” be briefed on the bus ticket system before they took charge of a party? Why not buy the passes in advance? The School Director was not available to talk to me but I was put through to someone else. He listened courteously but took the line that these weren’t EF Language School students, they were students brought to Oxford by EF Language Travel (EFLT). EFLT, he said, was a different company although part of the same organisation and with an office on the EF site. While not speaking for EFLT he suggested that the problem may lie with the fact that EFLT groups sometimes bring their own Leaders (“Staff”) who themselves weren’t familiar with Oxford and with socially acceptable behaviour.
The spokesman said he would pass my enquiry to a colleague in the EFLT office and ask them to call me back, but that was the last I heard.
But maybe my call didn’t fall on deaf ears, because over the past few weeks none of my occasional bus journeys into the City have been held up by groups of EF students. Instead, I’ve seen several groups walking down Headington Hill towards the town centre. Has there been a change? Or have I just been lucky?